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When it comes to making smart decisions for your financial future, investing in your education is definitely one of the smartest. For most people this means going to a college or university and getting a degree in nursing, accounting or a masters in human resources. This sure is the path that society expects of us, and statistically is a very good choice. People with college degrees, on average, earn vastly more than those who don’t.
However, not everyone has the opportunity to go to college. It’s extremely expensive, takes at least four years of your life, and prevents you from working full time in most cases. And in today’s world of ever changing technology, the things you learn in college can become outdated in just a couple of years.
All through our younger years we are told that “you have to go to college to get a good job”. And while that may be true still in most cases, there are exceptions. The rise of technology has provided an alternative that may be just as lucrative, and is much easier to obtain than a full degree. Technical certifications. These little pieces of paper may not come with the prestige and four years of partying that a degree does, but they can get a job just as surely, and maybe even more so. And if you already have a degree but are looking to boost your resume, then they are the perfect route to go in.
What are technical certifications?
Technical certifications are essentially a standard determining that you are well equipped at a certain skill. For instance, the Comptia A+ computer technician certification lets potential employers know that you are skilled enough with computers to fix pretty much any problem that arises with a PC. They come in many varieties, and come from many different sources. Companies like Comptia have them, as well as tech giants like Microsoft. If you earn one, it lets people know that you are well versed in that technology.
How do you get them?
Obtaining a technical certification couldn’t be easier. First, decide what you want to get certified in. Popular choices are computer repair, web design, and programming. Then figure out which company you want to get certified from. It may be smart to get several of them at the same time. If they are in the same subject area, they will both test on most of the same subject areas, so the second one will be very easy to get once you have the first. Once you’ve figure out where you want the certification from, get a study book that is specifically for that test. They typically cost less than just a single book you’d have to buy for one college class. Then just do some studying and take some practice tests, making sure that you’re ready to pass. The exams aren’t cheap, so you want to pass them the first time.
Once you feel you’re ready, schedule the exam through whatever system the company provides. They will typically be taken at either a professional testing center or at a university. Pass the test, and you’ll be certified!
What can you do with one?
Mainly, these certifications will help you get a job in some sort of technical field. If you get the A+ certification I mentioned above, you’ll be able to get an entry level computer technician position at most companies, even without experience or a degree. And if you have a degree, they can really boost your marketability to employers. They show that you are seeking to continue your education, learn new skills, and keep up with modern technology. All great things that employers look for in a candidate.
I got my A+ certification when I was a sophomore in high school. The next summer while working in an intern computer technician position I was given a $2 an hour raise, just for having this little piece of paper. Sure, taking the tests was just over $100 if I remember correctly, but that investment paid off very quickly. I also have the Microsoft Software Development Fundamentals Certification, which padded my resume significantly when I was applying for web design jobs last month, and was a contributing factor I’m sure in getting one.
Getting a technical certification isn’t something that everyone needs to do. In fact, there aren’t very many people who really need one. But if you are working in the technical field, or trying to get to that point, it is something that you should strongly consider. And, perhaps most importantly, you avoid students loans when getting one, so the long term benefits may outway even a traditional college education.
Author Bio: James Petzke is a college student, entrepreneur, and the blogger behind This Is Common Cents, an online personal finance magazine about frugality, making money, financial independence, and living the dream.